Saturday, December 27, 2008

Titles are passe, anyway.

Dad: Still in the hospital. Pain keeps coming back, and when the pain comes back they want to keep him. Mom tells him to fake it if he wants to come home. I keep sticking my head in the sand. There are conversations that have to be had, and I'm not looking forward to them. His hospital bed has been delivered to the house and I think everything is ready for him to come home. I will buy him a Wii for his room if it he will be able to play it. I just don't want him to get bored and lonely at those times when nobody can be with him.

Garden: Slow. Two poppies have been threatening to bloom but they are just teases so far. Four sweet pea blossoms in the front yard, lots of wildflower plants now but not so much as a flower bud yet. My lettuces and greens survived all the rain (I was afraid they would rot) and seem quite happy. I have not prepared the carrot/root bed that I would like to (I just have not been in my right mind since Dad went into the hospital). The backyard is flush with a new crop of weed seedlings - time for my magical hoe to get to work again! The sugar snap peas all died, I'm not sure why. I need to get my list of January tasks and seeds put together.

Christmas: I spent most of Christmas Eve night with Pop in the hospital. Christmas Day we went to San Clemente; Dan's parents have a timeshare condo there and they booked the nicest one for Christmas week. The ocean view was incredible and we got to watch a storm blow in, shaking the trees and the windows. The Kinnick half of the family is going to try for a second Christmas on New Year's Eve (Mom's birthday); hopefully Dad will be home by then. My cousin Rachelle and her family will be arriving today. They were supposed to stay at our house while we were up in Yosemite, but of course all that's out the window now.

How were your holidays? tell me everything.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I will likely not be blogging much in the next week or so (I don't expect you to be, either).

So Merry Christmas and know that I love you. Fell free to call me any time. if you don't have my cell # just email me through the blog. I and my family would love to hear from you anytime.

Have some wonderful holidays.

Cancer Sucks.

As I'm sure you already know.

Pop's back in the hospital again. Turns out the stomach/GI problems he's been having for the last two months are caused by the cancer. It's spread into his abdomen and some of his bones. The doctors say six months, but you know the answer really is "who knows?" He should be home by Christmas, and we'll have in-home hospice care from then on. Dad's in good spirits, as good as anybody can be in this situation, but he's in pain, too. He'll probably be on morphine from here on out.

I'm planning to spend every Friday-Sunday up in Chino from now on. Paul will be enrolled in the after-school program two days a week. I think I'll still be able to pull off taking Chemistry this spring- thank heavens it's a M/W class.

We canceled our Yosemite vacation, which my Mom thinks was stupid of us, but on Friday we just didn't know how bad it was or wasn't. We may still drum up the desire to do something. we'll see how it all plays out with Pop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Iris, My Heroine

Last Thursday night, I went grocery shopping. I had to take the boys because Dan was working late. They are always crazy at night, and Thursday was no exception. I wrestled them out of the car (Eli had already kicked off his shoes), strapped Eli into the cart while he screamed like a banshee, tried to keep them from doing too much damage in the store, paid, then went out to the car. My keys were not in my purse. They were not in my pocket. They were in the ignition. In my locked car. "I'll call AAA," I thought. Then I noticed my cell phone was on the seat. In my locked car. Paul said "Why aren't we getting in the car?" I explained the situation. I don't know about where you live, but pay phones are disappearing around here, fatalities of the cell phone. I had no idea where I was going to find one.

As we were walking by the store entrance, Paul asking what we were going to do and me saying "I have no idea," a woman overhead us and asked if we needed help. I had to admit that yes, yes, I actually did. She offered her cell phone and her AAA membership, so I called AAA and they gave me a 45-minute window. It was 8:00 at night and Eli had no shoes on, nobody had a jacket on. Iris (the woman's name) asked if we needed her to stay with us. I said she didn't need to spend 45 minutes of her night waiting with us, but she insisted and even got a jacket and blanket out of her car for us.

AAA took 45 minutes, and Iris stayed with us the whole time. We had such a good time chatting. Certain verbal cues made me suspect she was LDS. I admit I asked leading questions, and once I was sure, told her that we are too. So we exchanged phone numbers and made a date to have lunch on Monday. Eli and I went over to her (big sigh here) very nice and stylish home. She's dazzlingly nice, we have a tremendous lot in common, and we're going to a party at her house next month. Plus, she and her husband go backpacking. I don't want to get too optimistic, but it looks like we might have potential new friends on our hands.

Hooky!

I contributed to truancy yesterday, acted irresponsibly and disregarded the mountain of work I need to do around the house. I took Paul and Eli to the snow. See, Monday we had buckets and buckets and buckets of rain. Snow fell below 4000 feet in the mountains. Courtney called me on Monday night and said all the cousins were going to skip school and go to the snow. She made a good point: "How often do we get snow days in southern California?" Well, I never need much arm-twisting to shirk non-essential duties. It's such a ridiculous amount of work and fuss for such a short pleasure, but we drove up to just past Baldy Village and found a meadow to play in. Then we drank hot cocoa and went back to Grandma & Grandpa's.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Take Some Action

I have pasted this exactly as i found it on the Design Mom blog:

Friends. I know you're busy with your holiday projects and errands, but I ask you to please join with me in taking a few minutes to help out thousands of our peers who are about to be put out of business.

In short, because of some well-meaning, but mis-guided legislation, hand-made toys (like the gorgeous wooden teethers at Little Alouette) — and all hand-made items for children — are about to become illegal. Which sounds like an exaggeration, but isn't.

The ladies at Cool Mom Picks have written up an excellent post detailing the situation. Please go read all about it. And then do this:

-Find your congress person and senators and write a letter like the sample here, particularly if they serve on the consumer protection subcommittee.
-Send a letter directly to the CPSC.
-Join the Handmade Toy Alliance and check out their proposed changes to the act which make a whole lot of sense.
-Spread the word to everyone you know who cares about helping the little guy, particularly in today's economy.

Back to me again: I love handmade toys. As currently written, the CPSIA will drive small American toy makers out of business by requiring prohibitively expensive safety testing. Small-scale American toy makers have an excellent safety record, unlike huge companies which have their toys manufactured in China. Please help keep small toy-making artists in business. Send a letter today; it only takes a few minutes.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Like A Vampire

Still buried, but will emerge soon. Holidays + flood recovery = completely swamped.

Got a solid A in Biology; don't even have to take the final. I've decided it would be reckless to try taking both Human Biochemistry and Anatomy in the spring. So I bought a high-school level Anatomy & Physiology textbook at the library bookstore and I'll study that before taking Anatomy next fall.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Insult to Injury

While we were away, Dan's car windows were left partially open. It rained. His car stinks of mildew. And at some point somebody reached in, unlocked the door, and stole his car stereo.

The bright point is another A on Exam #3. This is very good, because I will probably bomb the lab exam on Thursday. The lowest score gets dropped. Phew.

Monday, December 01, 2008

There Is No Time

Egads.

We went to Sacramento for Thanksgiving. My Dad has two brothers up there and I don't get to see them, my aunts and my cousins often enough. We stayed at my cousin Rachelle's beautiful home and my kidlets played with hers (and I think Paul is in 6-year-old love with his 2nd cousin Emma).

Got home on Sunday with one hour to go until church. Started a bath for the boys, but no hot water and no hot water and no hot water and... oh my gosh, the water heater! I knew it must have finally died, so I dashed to the garage and sure enough, water was slowly running down the floor and pooling against the garage door. It's not as bad as it could have been; only a few things were damaged. There's a wool rug I had on the floor in front of the washer & dryer and it's pretty much ruined - the colors bled all over. We had warned Mr. Landlord several times about the heater and were about to complain again.

So now our food storage is stacked in front of the fireplace, which kind of wrecked my Family Home Evening plans for hanging up the stockings and decorating the mantel. There's more stuff on the living room floor, and stuff under the front eaves of the house. The garage is full of fans and dehumidifiers runnning 24/7. We had to clear some stuff out of the garage cabinets so the plumbers could drill holes in the bottoms to let them dry out.

To top it all of, I have another Biology Exam tomorrow, and then a lab exam on Thursday. I'm glad I studied on the trip and didn't put it off until the last minute!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bad Homesteader, Bad!

So it's raining tonight, which is part of why I'm blogging at 2:30 in the morning. The other part is this weird arthritis-y type hip joint pain I've been having lately. Did you know I have congenitally defective hip sockets? Biology is fun.

Back to the rain. I have all the parts I needed to fix the gutters and funnel rain water into a storage barrel, but did I ever get around to installing them? Nope. Seriously, if our lives actually depended on my homesteading skills, we would be so dead. My native seeds have just begun to germinate, but I'm worried this storm could wipe them out - it's typical SoCal rain, hard and heavy. Of course, that's nothing compared to the people who are wondering if their houses will be wiped away by mudslides tonight. When I drove through the hills on the 57 during the fires, it was like driving into Armageddon with the Killers as my soundtrack. Between the smoke and the raging Santa Ana winds it was like a music video. Highly surreal.

The sugar snap peas have begun to form pods, and the first fava bean seedling has poked out of the ground. I think I will plant more of them. The regular peas are doing poorly and I will probably have to plant a new crop at the end of January. My lettuces are healthy but sloooooow growing, I know we are heading into the low-grow part of the year so I guess I'm not too surprised. All my native & drought tolerant stuff is going dormant which makes the backyard look even more sad. I just have to keep telling myself "It will look awesome next summer, it will look awesome next summer." Unless my super heavy clay soil kills everything first!

Oh yes, college. By the time I was permitted to register, all sections of human biochem were filled up. Now I am in a dither, because I really wanted to get a better grip on chemistry before I tackle Anatomy. I have emailed the professor to ask if there are plans to add any more courses, but have no response just yet. I know everything will work out - it always does - but right now the next step hasn't come to me yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday Garage Sale Score

Shaking things up this week.

A fun morning of garage-sale-ing. Two silk scarves, an uncoated aluminum roasting pan, a few top-secret Christmas gifts, a gigantic pot that I will drill a hole in the bottom of and turn into a planter, some decorative items, shoes for Dan, a forged-head hammer and a rather large rubber mallet (I use rubber mallets a lot and have been wanting a bigger one for a while), some drill bits.

We drove up to Chino again because my SIL Courtney and her kids were there, and drove the herd up to the Rancho Santa Ana gardens again. Even my parents came, which was awesome. We had a great time despite the inevitable tantrums and fits that come along with such a venture. Then we had dinner, went back to Mom & Pop's and just hung out. I should have called Stephen or Sam, since we were up there. I am lame.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Como Una Abeja

Like a busy, busy bee! Only online tonight to see if I can register for the Spring semester yet (no, I can't until next Monday).

Summations: Human Biochemistry next semester (if I can get in the class). More exams coming up, semester over in 5 weeks. Hope I don't screw up my A. Saw a play with Stephen on Saturday night, got stuck in Chino because the fires closed the freeways, had to sleep at Mom & Pop's.

Finally sowed the seeds for the wildflower/native grass front yard. Sweet pea seedlings also in front yard, climbing old branches, hope they will bloom by Christmas. Got all the sugar snap seedlings planted, fava beans planted, transplanting peas, waging war on the caterpillars gorging themselves on my lettuce! Killed 10+ today alone. Larkspur, nasturtium, Mrs. Scott Elliott columbine, poppies and strawberries in the courtyard garden. Bought a matilija poppy and an indian mallow, will probably grow in large pots in backyard.

Bad mom - Paul's school reports not so good. Have to get my you-know-what together and be a more self-disciplined adult. Huge self-hatred cycle starting there. Thanksgiving creeping up, may go north to see Dad's side of the family. Going to ride the Polar Express next month with my mother, Paul, Eli and their cousin Noah. Trying to suppress the horror of it all. Reason I'm going is Dad will start chemotherapy soon and will not be able to travel. Trying to suppress that horror, too.

Christmas Eve in San Clemente. Christmas day, who knows? Going to Yosemite for 4 days after Christmas - Dan's new overlords give the whole Christmas-New Year's week off.

Formed two "escape" plans for if the economy really goes to hell. #1 is hike the Pacific Crest Trail for 6 months. #2 is go see Don and Lee in China (Don's blog is really funny, hint hint) - if we have to live off our savings, may as well do it someplace interesting and cheap.

OK, piles of laundry and diagrams of cellular respiration to get to!

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Date With Stephen

Last Friday, Stephen and I finally had another date. Dan was supposed to go on a Boy Scout overnighter, but instead had to work half the night. I had a horticulture lecture in Claremont Saturday morning (at the wonderful Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden), so I stayed at Mom & Pop's on Friday night and Stephen and I got to go out. We went to the Claremont Village, which has become much more developed since I used to work at KSPC. So much for the small-town college feel!

We mostly just walked around. We took a confusing detour into a store called Bath Junkie, where Stephen played with the staff's head and despaired for the younger generation, while I think I was very clumsily hit on by a 22-year-old. I was either being mocked or I am now in the cougar phase of life. I'm still not sure. I guess we both ended up lamenting the young. We are so old.

We went into Rhino Records - oh, all my California expat friends, remember Rhino? The used CD racks, the vinyl in the back, the hand-lettered sale signs. I talked Stephen out of buying everything he wanted, but he couldn't talk me out of buying the CD he picked out for me - "The Greatest" by Cat Power. He told me the title track was a perfect song; how I could I pass by a recommendation like that. He was right, listen to it here (sorry, it's a very silly fan video). I don't love the whole album, but I do love cat Power and there are some really great songs. My favorites besides The Greatest are Hate, Lived In Bars, and Love & Communication.

Who wants to teach me how to embed YouTube videos? I am a bit of an idiot.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Seed Sale!

I do not know if any of you are as geeky about gardens as I am, but Renee's Garden is having their annual half-off sale - vegetable, herb, and flower seeds. I just placed an order for Scarlet runner beans, Painted Lady runner beans, Spanish Musica beans, Edamame, the Asian Eggplant Trio, and some old-fashioned hollyhocks. Half off of all in-stock seed packets (that's $1.35 a packet) until November 20th, and $4.50 shipping in the US. I will have a wall of beans shading the sunny side of the house this summer!

Go here to check out the selection.

The winter garden is coming along. The tomatoes were not getting enough sun where they were, so I dug them up and put them in a sunnier spot. I have Stupice, Glacier, and Taxi tomatoes. I am still getting eggplants in November! The squash, watermelon and cantaloupe vines have all been ripped out. I picked up some more straw bales secondhand after Halloween (folks use them as party decorations), and have now filled in the trench along the sunny side of the house using the newspaper-hay-straw-compost method.

The front yard is coming back together. Dan helped me lay the flagstone path back down and I put some crocus bulbs in between the stones. Once I decide what I'm doing to kill the weeds that have begun to sprout up, I will seed the front yard with California native grasses and wildflowers. It's very small, difficult to water, and thick with tree roots (there's a half-dead plum tree), so I don't want to turn it into another veggie plot. It will be my little patch of natural California.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

curveballer

In all the election brouhaha, I forgot to tell my dedicated blogfans how I did on my second Biology exam. I got 47 out of 50, and to my astonishment I set the curve for the grading. So I think I can say with some confidence that I probably have an A in the class so far. I was really nervous about going back to school, and still nervous about taking Chemistry in the Spring, but I might actually have some confidence by the end of this semester.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dear Senator McCain

As I watched you give your gracious, gracious concession speech last night, I felt great sorrow for you. I actually cried a little bit for you. To have your white house aspirations destroyed twice by George W. Bush must be a bitter pill, indeed. I voted for you in the 2000 primaries, and I knew the GOP made a huge mistake in not selecting you back then. I believe that even more now. I don't necessarily think that you would have saved us from all of the disasters that we're suffering now, particularly given the spending and economic policies you have supported, but I do believe you wouldn't have come up with the harebrained idea to invade Iraq - and what a different country we would be now just without that problem.

I know you are a good man. I know your running mate, Gov. Palin, is a good woman. Boy, she got whipped in the press, and she impressed me with her ability to be brave through it all. I do genuinely believe it was sexist. But all that aside, at this time, in this place, I just didn't think your direction was the right one to choose. You had a hard race to run, carrying the last 8 years on your backs. Gov. Palin didn't seem quite ready for the national stage (but give her a few years and who knows?). You fought as hard as you could, but man, did you have a harder course to run. I think you did make some mistakes, but they were amplified by the sheer magnitude of the hurdles you faced.

I know you won't fade quietly into the night. You're not that kind of man. Now that the fighting and the mud-slinging is over, I hope both sides can make peace and work together to take the tarnish off of our nation, to begin digging us out of the massive hole of debt we've dug ourselves into. Neither you nor your opponent ever showed any sense of realism about how massive our problems truly are, and realism is what we need now, not candy-coating and pandering (which you and Senator Obama were both guilty of). Let's all get to work and do this thing.

-your fellow American

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Voted.

It's almost over. Looks like I'll be heading up to my parents' house to watch the grueling, tension-inducing countdown to victory for whoever it is that wins.

No matter who wins, I hope and pray they don't screw up the country even worse.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Friday Thrift Store Score

I did my thrifting a day early this week, and at different stores.

Good scores this week. At store #1 I got a Japanese indigo batik wall hanging ($2), a silk slip ($2), a set of 8 vintage French small tart pans ($2), a Scooby Doo lunchbox for Paul ($1.5), and a secret Christmas present ($1). At store #2, I got a pair of Carlos Santana purple leather ankle booties ($4.20), a bunch of 10-cent books and CDs, and 75% off halloween dress-up supplies.

Hooray for thrifting!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Harpy Harloween

In true Colleen tradition, we're not 100% ready! Paul's costume is... close. He is going to be a werewolf, and Eli still can't decide between ghost, skeleton, blue monster, or cat (we have the costumes already, so no sweat). We haven't carved our pumpkins yet - Paul's been sick this week and so we'll have to do it today. I'm not sure what i'll slap together for me; I was thinking 1980's Sunset Strip metalhead (Axl Rose, y'know). Paul wants me to be a vampire, maybe I'll throw in some fangs. Dan lost all his childlike joy a long time ago (I can say that because he never reads my blog) and will not dress up.

My child-free friends, what are you doing for All Hallow's Eve? There are a lot of fun things going on that I long to be able to attend, but that is simply impossible for us for many, many years.

UPDATE: I ended up a Communist, because I have a drab dress that looks like a communist lunch-lady uniform and i also own a Fidel-style cap. Trick-or-Treating kinda stunk - Paul was ready to go home after about 40 minutes, and we got way less visitors this year, so we mostly just watched Nightmare Before Christmas. Did anybody have any fun for Halloween? Anybody?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prop 8

EDITED. I was very emotional when i wrote this, and that was a mistake. My feelings on this issue have been all over the map. Basically, i am torn between what my God tells me, and my desire to play fair and never cause pain to others. I have a conflicted relationship with God, and things like this tend to reach down into those secret chambers of my heart and pull my quiet internal disputes out in a very bloody and painful mess. We are like a father and a daughter who love each other very much but who have a few strong disagreements. We get along fine, until those disagreements are forced to the front, and then we have a falling-out for a while. This is one of those issues that gets me worked up. It's impossible for me to be rational for very long about it. I have pled with God at length about this, begging Him to change His mind. Some things are hard for me to believe, and I will possibly never agree with Him 100% in this life. I struggle with obedience, i freely admit that.

I do not regret what i said about the Yes campaign. It relies heavily on distortions, misrepresentation, fearmongering and occasional outright lies. I do not regret criticizing that the church has associated itself with the Protect Marriage coalition. We should not be supporting half-truths and deceptions. I don't criticize the church's stand on the issue itself - it is obligated by doctrine. I criticize people who have used this as an opportunity to air their bigotries and ignorance. I do not criticize people who soberly and sadly stand up for what they genuinely believe is right.

I'll almost certainly regret this post. But the brethren have asked us to blog about it, and blog about it I shall.

I hate prop 8. I hate everything about it. I hate the thumbscrew-pressure that's getting put on members to support it. I hate the lies (PLEASE read this rebuttal written by a BYU grad lawyer, active member and contributor to the Joseph Smith papers project) and hysteria being used to promote it. I hate that the church has elected to throw in its lot with Focus on the Family, an organization with a long history of fact-bending and religion-baiting, and other reactionary self-appointed arbiters of what is Christian and what is not. Very few of the groups we are mixing with on Prop 8 were our friends before now, and very few of them will be our friends afterward. They will stab us in the back as soon as it's over, mark my words.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hooray, It's Over!

No, not the election. I wish.

I'm talkin' 'bout the Primary Presentation. Yet another year's over and done! The kids were fine; I would have preferred a bit more enthusiasm but you can't squeeze blood from a stone and so I'm just glad that at least half of them sang. Paul not only didn't sing (he preferred to twiddle his hair and stare slack-jawed at the ceiling), but he also refused to go to the microphone to say his part.

Since I was actually going to be looked at (standing in front of the congregation and leading the singing), I put on some makeup. Eli noticed it during the Sacrament (when we are supposed to be silently meditating) and said loudly, "What's on your eyes?"

I whispered, "Makeup."

"Mango? You have mango on your eyes!?" Eli has no volume control. I'm sure they heard him up on the podium.

"Shh. I said makeup."

A minute passes. "You shouldn't put mango on your eyes!"

"Shh. It's makeup."

Another minute passes. "Can I have mango on my eyes?"


After the program was over, we went to the Primary room and sort of did our normal routine, but with a "party" (term used VERY loosely) at the end. The kids had been promised that i would play the guitar for them, which I did. I played "If the Savior Stood Beside Me," "Tell me the Stories of Jesus," "Popcorn Poppin'," and "Once There Was a Snowman." The older children insisted that even with my guitar I still had to melt down to the floor, so I did, which was un poquito challenging. I ended up in a classic guitar-solo shredder pose. Once I am released as Chorister, I will join an all-mom hair metal band.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Hypocrisy

Warning: politics ahead.

First, read this.

Here is a history of our trade relations with Vietnam (a communist country we actually went to war with). And here are some statistics on our trade with China (another bunch of commies).

So why are we still punishing Cuba? I'm no fan of Fidel's reign, but I have never, ever understood how exactly we were supposed to be "bringing democracy to the Cuban people" (that's verbatim from the 1992 codification of the embargo) by punishing them with an embargo. Not to mention that our own government tells us we can't go to Cuba if we want to. We can travel to Iran if we want to (although the State Dept. warns against it), but not Cuba.

The pigheadedness of our government occasionally drives me into fits of madness. We could form mutually beneficial partnerships with Iran, which has massive oil reserves but incredibly primitive infrastructure, but we don't because their president insists on saying stupid things and then our government responds by saying other stupid things. They act like schoolchildren, and all of our posturing and tough talk has gotten us nowhere. Now we find that Cuba potentially has huge oil reserves, but also a massive infrastructure problem. Will we be consistent in our hypocrisy and attempt to get American developers in there, or will be be consistent in our other hypocrisy and attempt to freeze development there?

We have negative history with Iran and Cuba. We've overthrown their governments and manipulated them (Cuba in and around 1899, Iran in 1953), and then we act shocked when they actually remember this and hold a grudge about it.

I hope the time will soon come when a serious attempt is made to normalize relations with Cuba. Fidel is dying, Raul seems... well, I'm sure he's not wonderful, but he has begun to institute some reforms. If ever there was a time to give the Cuban people some sort of hope for a better life, now seems like it. I have occasionally written my senators about this - since it seems they will be elected until they die (possibly even after), what do they have to lose?

Big sigh. I just hate when humans have to suffer because governments act like proud children.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Thrift Store Scores

Every Friday morning, Goodwill changes the 50% off tag color. Being incredibly parsimonious, I am one of the Friday morning regulars. Fifty-cent VHS tapes, cheap books, clothes I can afford to take a gamble on... what's not to love? So, inspired by Ken's regular features, I think I will start a Friday Thrift Store feature.

Today's haul was very small, really. A copy of the Berenstain's Bear Scouts, a soyfoods cookbook, and four videotapes: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Angela Lansbury never looked young, did she?), a Beatrix Potter adaptation, a Thelonious Monk documentary (I have to screen it to make sure it's OK for the boys), and - purely to astonish Paul - an old monster truck video. I should set up the videocamera and tape his reaction to the carnage.

Eli Dialogue

I know I said no potty talk, but this made me laugh and laugh. Eli answers me as if I've said the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard.

Eli: "I'm a gorilla!"

Me: "Is this gorilla going to use the toilet?"

Eli: "Nooo, gorillas don't fit on toilets."

Me: "Is this gorilla going to pee in his underwear?"

Eli: "Nooo, gorillas don't wear underwear."

Me: "Then where do gorillas pee?"

Eli: "They pee in the dirt!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hair, hair, hair again










I found this photostream from a salon in Lisbon, Portugal. I love, love, love their cuts and colors. I must do something to this unruly bush that is sprouting from my head. Go look for your own ideas and tell me what I ought to do with mine. Which of thse cuts does my discerning and tasteful adience prefer?

Also, when I am a woman of a certain age, I hope I will be as wonderful-looking as these ladies. My favorite of all is this elegant dame.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dracula-La: A Review

Several weeks ago, Daniel told me to book a babysitter for last night. He wouldn't tell me what we were doing, just to get a sitter from 6 to midnight. He enjoys having a harmless secret from me, because I always try to tease the secret out of him. He did finally reveal that we were going to a play - someone at his work is mixed up with a theatre group and had put up a poster in the break room, so Dan thought, "Why not" and bought tickets.

So as we were preparing to leave, Dan dropped some more tidbits: "I think it's kind of a musical," and, "It's an original play." I began to silently giggle with glee and the potential for mockery, because I am a born mocker. Ringo Starr, I salute you.


We drove to the Huntington Beach Playhouse. On the way, Dan was very concerned that the play would stink and be a waste of our time. I assured him that it would never be able to be as bad as "October," which was the play that finally made us stop attending the Rude Guerrilla Theatre. And besides, if it was awful we would be supplied with in-jokes that would last us many a year. As we pulled into the parking lot, he dropped one last bomb: "Oh, there's a vampire, too." Egads, I love the theatre.

As you may have surmised, the play is "Dracula-La." Get it? Dracu-La-La-La? Oh yes, it gets better. Now, before I get carried away in dissection, I need to note a few things. It was not bad. I enjoyed it. Community theatre is run by people with an infectious joy for putting on a show, and I love that about it. I have been mixed up in community theatre (although never with musicals - I am extremely picky about musicals). Between that and my college theatre experience, I understand the limited pool of actors that directors have to choose from. Add in the requirements of singing and dancing and the pool shrinks even more. Not to mention the tight budgets. But - and this is so super cool - they had a live band performing the music. I have never seen that in a community/small theatre before, so it was a really great treat.

On to the play. Set in Philadelphia 1928, which they bludgeon you over the head with in the first song, "Philadelphia 1928." We are introduced to a chorus of four flapper girls, who we soon discover are prostitutes - but not drug users, they assure us in song. It's good to know we are only dealing with hookers, not junkies. They speak in a strange mishmash dialect of betty-boopisms and old-fashioned slang and wear obvious Halloween costume flapper dresses. Their madam, Sophie, is soon to be married to Bela, the friendly neighborhood all-night candy store owner, who sleeps all day and runs his candy store all night (but is taking pills to change that schedule, so I suspect will soon spiral into an Elvis-esque barbiturate-and-upper addiction cycle), and has a mortal fear of placing his mouth on his fiancee. Hmmm.

Here is where I must praise and criticize. The gentleman who played Bela is a fine singer - a lovely tenor with a clear voice. He really could use acting and movement lessons, if he's serious about the acting side of things. Movement lessons would actually have benefited several of the cast members. I must also criticize the script a bit. In this first scene with Bela and the hookers, There are several moments when, old-school melodrama style, Bela delivers a semi-sinister line toward the audience, with a little shot of ominous music. This never happens again until the second to last scene, which is a shame because it is such a fun device -it plays to the audience, almost always gets a laugh, and heightens the ridiculousness of an undercover vampire running an all-night candy store.

Another point of praise. Both Bela and Sophie are middle-aged and their bodies will not be gracing any underwear ads. I enjoyed a love story between two people who are not twenty and rail-thin.

Enter the conflict. A trio of vampires (Miklos, Laszlo, and Zsa Zsa) from the old country pay a visit to Bela, and during their stay they have already killed a few people, which the streetwalkers twitter and shudder about ("they found her in an alley, with two puncture marks on her neck!"). Apparently, Bela is the last known descendent of Count Dracula and he must now take over the throne, or all the world's 900 vampires will die in three days. Although the vampires were absolutely delightful (by far the best performances of the show), their advent brings up multiple conflicts with the fact that the play takes place in 1928. First, their costumes! There were no club goths or cybergoths in 1928 - of that I am certain. Had I been the costumer, I would have gone with the romantic 1920's European look. Laszlo almost had this look, but his fake leather trenchcoat was very distracting (and probably made him very sweaty). Zsa Zsa was cybergoth/early industrial (with huge black platform boots, a fake leather trench and great though not at all period hair) and Miklos was dressed as the sort of guy I shunned at Helter Skelter back in the day - mesh shirt, spike collar, chains on his black pants and mid-calf laceup boots. The other problem is their need to get back to the old country in three days - Lindbergh flew over the Atlantic just the year before in 1927, and there were no transatlantic commercial flights going on in 1928.

Back to the play. Bela refuses to join them. Apparently, if a vampire abstains from bloodsucking for seven years he can return to humanity. Bela is two days away from this, and on that day he plans to marry Sophie (and finally kiss her, we suppose). The vampires leave in angry defeat, but of course they cook up a plan to force Bela to go with them. Zsa Zsa hypnotizes Bela, Sophie sees them togather and thinks Bela is fooling around on her. Miklos hypnotizes Mimi, one of the whores (yeah, I said it), and lures her back to the hotel, where Bela is to suck her blood and return to vampirism. the hookers' costumes are much better in the second act. Sophie wears a particularly lovely dress that really does exude 1920's style. One of the hookers, Ginger, has a penchant for the supernatural and begins to piece together what is going on. Mimi and Bela escape, confirm Ginger's suspicions, and then Ginger and Bela head off to put an end to the vampires (stakes, garlic, crosses, all that). They are thwarted, doom seems imminent, then Sophie and her whores (tee hee, I love saying that) bust in and save the day. It is accidentally discovered that the hapless Miklos, who was definitely the weak link in the vampires' chain (the character, not the actor - who was very good), is a distant relative of Bela and thus is eligible for the vampire throne. Laszlo, the competent strongman leader, is horrified (but I guess that's better than dying, eh?). Zsa Zsa immediately turns her seductive powers on Miklos. And then Bela and the whores, who have everything they need to kill these three vampires and thus free the world of all 900 vampires in existence, casually decide to LET THEM GO. Then everybody sings a very funny song, "Hail the New Count Dracula," and Miklos hams it up quite charmingly as the new leader.

Summation: Most songs are very enjoyable, but I didn't walk out humming any of them. The play needs a re-write. The live band was awesome. The vampires were great, fierce and over the top in a good way. The whores never gelled as a group, but Mimi and Ginger were the better of the lot - of course, they were the only two allowed any real character traits (unless you count Boots' dependence on a flask of booze as a character trait). Sophie and Bela have fine voices and good presence when singing, but their movement and acting needs work. The bellboy character is unnecessary (see, I didn't even mention it) and inappropriate for a 15-year-old boy (which is who played it).

After the show we ate at Matsu, a Japanese restaurant. The only way it could have been more kitschy was if the kimono-clad waitresses had geisha makeup and made us sit on the floor. Then I fell asleep in the car as we drove home, because I am an old woman now and I need my sleep.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Santa Ana!

They are here - the Santa Anas. Winds hit 83 mph last night in Fremont Canyon (but only around 50 mph down here), and they woke us up around 4:30 this morning. Our patio umbrella is nowhere to be seen, our easy-up canopy is in the front yard of the empty house next door, and my pea trellises were knocked over. Amazingly, the tarps I have covering part of the front yard (I'm amending the soil and don't want it to dry out) are still there, although they were flapping a bit.

I need to do a big post on the front yard. I have ripped and dug out about 3-4 inches of weeds and crabgrass, dug out the buried stone pavers, and have amended the top few inches with decomposed sawdust and horse manure. Once I get the stones laid back down, I'll start scattering wildflower seeds. California poppies, yellow lupine, mexican primrose... I am a little bit paralyzed aboput the flower layout, but even if i make a mess of it it will still look eons better than it ever did before.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hair Gloss

I believe I have mentioned that Paul wants to grow his hair down to his waist. He is very enamored of his hair and wants to make sure that it looks nice, so he tolerates me combing out the bedhead every morning and occasionally using a little bit of hairspray to make his bangs behave. I thought my lack of daughters meant I would be spared from hairstyling duty, but Paul has proven me wrong.

For the last two mornings, when I have started to comb Paul's hair, there has been a strange, sticky, slippery substance on the back of his head. We inspected the pillows and chairs and found nothing, so finally I asked Paul if he had put something in his hair. The look on his face told me all I needed to know. We asked him what he had used, and he said, in a thoroughly embarrassed little voice, "Hair stuff." I knew there was no way whatever was in his hair was actually a hair product. So he led us to the bathroom and pointed to... a pot of lip gloss. After we stopped laughing, we had to send him off to school with lip gloss in his hair because there was no time to wash it out.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Worried About You

Now that the joke of a bailout has passed and the Dow is still going down a rabbit hole, I'm getting mildly worried. In truth, my insomnia is back. We are assessing our accounts and trying to determine how much risk we are facing. We rolled Dan's old 401(k) into an indexed fund earlier this year, so provided whoever is holding our funds doesn't go belly-up we won't lose any money. My funds, which I should have indexed this year, have probably dropped by 25% or more. I'm not sure I want to know, but I should haul my rump in to our financial guru to try to stop the bleeding as best we can. Our credit union seems solid and our main bank, Wells Fargo, is angling to acquire Wachovia so we hope that means they are solid. We have always been very conservative with our money and I hope that leaves us on solid ground.

Most of you, my friends, are young enough that we can probably weather this storm without hideous long-term damage. We may take heavy hits, but we may come out at the end OK. I'm worried about my Mom, who is paid by our almost bankrupt state - did you hear we could use a loan of about 7 billion dollars? Plus Dad is on disability. Plus Adam works for the DMV (no hissing, please!). Dan and I seriously talked last night about finding a 4-bedroom house to rent, partly because I am really strongly feeling like we need to add another kid into the mix and partly because I am very concerned that we may need to absorb some family members at some point in the next year.

What about y'all? Getting nervous? Thinking maybe your food storage isn't quite up to snuff? We just placed a big order.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ninety Percent

means an A on exam #1. I am mucho relieved. The goal for exam #2 is to get the A by a slightly higher margin.

My Pop was over yesterday and I sort of helped him build two 4'x8' raised wooden beds for my winter crops. I'll be using the Esther Deans no-dig straw method (read about it here in the LA Times), so we put the beds on the huge concrete slab in the side yard. Now I just need to get the straw and hay and get ready for fall planting. Mmmm, home-grown lettuce, spinach, and carrots.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Field Trip

Yesterday Stephen joined me for a joint Horticulture/Biology field trip to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, just outside Escondido. Egads, it was hot. At one point I thought an insect had gone down the back of my shirt, but when I reached back to get it away, I realized it was just rivulets of sweat pouring down my skin. Eccch. September is by far the worst month here.

The horticulture lecture focused on the California native garden that the Wild Animal Park maintains. I have been very interested in putting California natives and other climate-appropriate plants in my garden, so despite the heat I did enjoy the tour. But afterward, trying to do a Biology scavenger hunt in the main park, I was miserable. I did what I could, but the heat was finally getting to me and so we left. I will have to do some online research to fill out the rest of the paper for the Bio class.

On the way home, we stopped at the Tree Of Life nursery outside of San Juan Capistrano. Tree of Life features all California and Baja California natives, plus seeds for native wildflowers and grasses. I bought four plants and a packet of native grass seeds. San Miguel Coral Bells is a vine that grows big clusters of showy pink flowers - the one they had growing there was stunning and I bought two one-gallon pots to plant next to the patio cover in the backyard. By next summer we'll be eating under a canopy of flowers. I bought a fucshia-flowering sage and Mexican Marigold. The sample plants they had in their garden were so beautiful I just had to have them. I wanted an Indian Mallow, which had beautiful grey-green foliage and orange cuplike flowers, but they said it will be another month before the seedlings are ready to be sold. The nursery is a really lovely place and I am looking forward to going again.

Stephen and I laughed at ourselves and what plant geeks we have turned out to be. I wanted to buy every book they had on native edibles, and the had a prickly pear cookbook I was sorely tempted by. There is a huge cluster of prickly pears across the creek from us, and I really should go harvest the fruit. leather gloves, tongs, and a big burlap sack!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

yesterday morning

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

-Carl Sandburg, 1919

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Arrr!

Completely unrelated to International Talk Like a Pirate Day, last weekend my Mom took Paul and his cousin Noah to some ridiculous pirate dinner theatre in Buena Park, the epicentre of local dinner theatre extravaganzas. She's a good Grandma and never gives up on taking the boys to neat events. Which is good, because I have no patience for those sorts of things! Paul came home very happy and excited to tell us about it.

Mom & Dad took Eli as well, so Dan and I got to go on a mini stay-cation. We took the bus to Laguna and just walked around. I should have been studying. We ate vegan tacos (mushroom, mushroom & tofu, and potato) at Taco Loco, which were very tasty indeed. We ate gelato (twice). The watermelon sorbetto was heavenly, but the hazelnut gelatto should only be consumed in small quantities, as it was just too rich. We saw at least three weddings going on along the coast, and we found a secret beach cove that we hadn't known existed. As much as I hate Orange County, living 11 miles from the coast does have its perks. Come down sometime and go to the beach with me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Failure

Ugh, I took my first online Biology quiz last night. bombed it - 3 out of 5. I have been alternately despairing and nonchalant. I have been making flash cards. I stopped using the elliptical at the gym and switched to stationary biking so that I could study while exercising. I am hoping that when taking tests in class, without my kids yelling in the background, I will perform better. Yeah, that's it, it's the kids that distracted me. Sure.

Stephen, who is the bestest friend ever, went behind my back and added my Saturday horticulture class. Joy! The last time we ever had a class together was, ironically, high school science with Mr. Baker. Wow, did we have interesting teachers.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Help!

Please talk me out of cutting my hair. Please.

My hair has changed over the last few years. I thought it was age or pregnancy-related, but now I have decided that I will blame it on my lame-o autoimmune disease. No matter! The issue is that I have hideous hair. It's thin - I have lots of individual hairs, but they are THIN little buggers. It's unruly. It curls at the slightest hint of moisture, but usually in a crazy avant-garde sort of way that i could have pulled off at 25 and blindingly hip, but not at 33 and depressingly frumpy.

I put a temporary dark brown in it because I could no longer stand the dust-bunny brown I was naturally given. It's awful. You know how it looks when a woman "of a certain age" puts dark brown dye over her white hair? It looks kind of like that. It's not cool enough yet for wearing hats every day. All I ever do is ponytail it and pin the sides back. This is the worst part of growing out hair - when it hits that length where it doesn't look good and you can't make it do what you want and have no idea what on earth would look good. Maybe trashy OC Mommy highlights. Bleh.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

When I Was Homeless

I alluded to this story in this morning's post. If you are my father, you should not read this. My Dad does not like to hear about this phase of my life; I suspect he feels guilty about it. He shouldn't. This whole experience never upset me. My memories of it are not crystal-clear. My journals don't go into much detail about it all, so I have to recreate this from fuzzy recollections.

When i was eighteen, my parents decided to make their second attempt at escaping the sucking hopeless black-hole gravity of southern California. Their first attempt was moving to Hicksville in southeastern Arizona, back in 1984 (note that Hicksville is a satirical name, not the real place). Arizona failed, but not before inflicting a few humdingers of emotional damage on me. Attempt number two involved moving to Cottage Grove, Oregon in early 1993. I had been to Cottage Grove once before; it was a lovely town, but it was not the kind of place that the eighteen-year-old me wanted to be in. So, as an utterly self-centered person, I stayed in California. I had already been out of high school for two years, was in college, and i had a job at a frozen yogurt shop, so I was cool, right?

Mom, Christine (age 16), Matt (age 15) and Adam (age 11) moved to Oregon. Dad had to stay in Chino and run the shop while Mom tried to get a job and get everything established up there. At first, I had the house to myself, and it immediately became Colleen's Home for Wayward Teens. Nicole and Chau moved in. We ate a lot of potato soup, because i was feeding everybody on minimum wage and that was the only thing i really knew how to cook. Christine was there for a while, but soon went up to Oregon, which was good because I think she and Chau were going to kill each other. Eventually Mom and Dad rented out the house to some people Dad knew, with the provision that I got a room. I must confess that i was so self-centered that I don't remember where my Dad stayed. Nikki and Chau had to vacate, leaving me with the tenants.

The tenants were... lackluster. Bordering on low-class. Not obnoxious, not mean. They just made me feel sad about the human race (I developed a keen sense of snobbery at an early age). Occasionally my food would be eaten by somebody other than me. Nothing horrific or Dickensian, I just didn't like it. I stopped sleeping there. I stopped keeping my very, very meager possessions there and began keeping them in the trunk of my car (Tim - a gold 1979 Mazda 626 with a moon roof and super-bouncy back seat). My dad got me a better-paying job through one of his customers, paying $10 an hour! I still couldn't get an apartment and couldn't find a suitable roommate. I began sleeping at friends' houses, on their couches. I was dating Scott Costello then, so I spent a lot of time at his father's house and slept there, or in Scott's van. Scott was good to me, I'll always remember him with gratitude and fondness. I slept at Kristen Davis' house a lot too (Tricia, I blush to think of our vulgar regular Thursday nights there). I occasionally slept in my car, sometimes in the Institute of Religion parking lot or in the parking lot at work.

This wasn't a bad arrangement, really. It was actually by my own choice, and being a naturally restless and unsettled person, I think I kind of thrived a little bit. I had to quit school because my job hours changed and i could no longer work nights. If I had really wanted to, i could have called my Dad for help, although the Oregon Experiment was going badly and Mom actually had to get food stamps for a while there. I could have gone to my aunts and uncles. I had a saftey net, so in a sense it's kind of dishonest to even refer to it as my homeless period. When i was on Win Ben Stein's Money (yet another story for another time), i offered it up as one of the interesting things about me, and it really hurt my Dad to hear it on TV. I'll always feel bad about that.

Oregon failed. Mom and my siblings came home. I moved back in. I went on being completely self-centered and I'm sad to say I still know very little of what went on with my family during this period. I'm not sure i ever wrote to my mother while she was 1,000 miles away and struggling. I don't know why i always had to distance myself so much. It was certainly a contributing factor to the humongous nervous breakdown i had back in 1999. My, my, so many more stories to tell!

2 kool 4 skool

Since I am a mother (a fact i occasionally neglect on this blog), I should talk a little bit about my kidlets, as they are the human beings i spend the most time with.

Paul started first grade last Thursday. I will forever feel guilty because I was not there - I had class. Daniel took him, and apparently there was crying. I am never sure if Paul's crying level is normal for his age, or if I am a horrific monster of a mother who has bred a child that cries because there are carrots in the pasta sauce. What kind of emotional damage have I wrought? Will their college accounts become therapy accounts? I would post a picture of him on his first day, but he's in a stained shirt and Daniel does not understand how to frame pictures so the messy house doesn't show. The "first day of school" picture will now forever showcase what a bad housekeeper & laundress i am.

Paul's teacher seems like a nice lady so far (there are good reports from other parents), and once the trauma of the first day wore off Paul got into it pretty quickly. He is not very forthcoming about what he does at school, except when he told us that he mooched a free lunch from the cafeteria. I tried explaining that the free meals are for kids whose parents can't afford to feed them enough, but Paul insists that free lunches are for everybody. We will work on this. We are still not into the homework routine, and between Paul's school and mine there is just NO TIME LEFT for much else. I have to get more time-efficient.

Eli is doing really well with his new babysitter, Liz. Liz also has a three-year-old, and he and Eli are already best buds. There is much crying when I, the evil mother, swoop in and take Eli away. Eli is whip-smart and continues to crack us all up (last night he wrapped a black sock around his face and robbed us all), although Paul is determined to spoil the fun by pointing out that "Eli isn't really an alien," or whatever the current charade is. Then I wonder if we are neglecting Paul and he needs more fun attention. This post should be titled "Mommy Insecurities."

I am adding a low-unit horticulture class that meets approximately one Saturday a month. It kills three birds with one stone - I earn extra credit for my Biology class, I get to go on guided/group hikes, and I get to learn more about native plants and landscaping. I have also resumed practicing the guitar - I bought a Mormon guitar book in Utah this summer and have finally begun practicing out of it. It's nice to learn using songs I already know the tune to. I can play "O My Father," "I Need Thee Every Hour," and "Love at Home" semi-incompetently. I am pretty bad at "I Am a Child of God," but it has a G chord and that requires stretching my weak little left pinkie. My left fingertips are very sore, but the boys love to listen to me practice (Eli actually stops the carnage, sits down and watches) and that helps motivate me to keep it up.

Book Recommendation: Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. She goes "undercover" as a minimum-wage worker (waitress, cleaning lady, rest-home worker, Wal-Mart associate) and attempts to make ends meet on just her minimum-wage earnings. It's pretty shocking. I only spent a few months as a homeless full-time worker (don't you know that story? I'll share it later), but I had a safety net to fall back on. This book taught me things about working poverty that I never knew, such as illustrating how difficult it is to set aside two months of rent as a security deposit when you are living in a weekly hotel room (which costs roughly 30% more than a comparable apartment), and what it is like to live in these kinds of places. This book made me embarassed at just how rich I am, and see how vulnerable I would be if Dan died and I had no family that could help us.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Weekend Roundup

No more politics, I promise. Although I did love how it brought everybody out of the woodwork! Stephen, your blog is long overdue, even if it does end up just being me and you arguing about how and when the world will end. I'll argue that if Obama is elected, he really WILL turn out to be an Islamist terrorist and he'll blow us all up. You can argue that if McCain is elected, he will deplete all of our remaining credit and troops on bombing Iran, which will leave us vulnerable when Russia and China decide to invade. Your scenario is more likely, I have no faith in the American voters ever electing a Democrat again. I need to start Mandarin lessons! Crud, I broke my promise in the very same paragraph I made it in.

Two weeks back into college, I'm feeling a little more on my feet now. My reading comprehension still leaves much to be desired, but this week in lab I sat next to two very nice young men (younger than most of my nephews, ack!) who made the lab experience much better. They are so young, so young. Still waiting for Miss In-Your-Face-Ignorance to drop the class, but at least I found out I am not the only one who wishes she would STOP TALKING.

Paul and I went to a wedding reception tonight. Eli has a fever (nothing serious, just toddler ague), which gave Daniel an excellent excuse to stay home and not have to socialize. The bride was a mature woman from our ward who had been Paul's Sunday School teacher two years in a row. She loves Paul, and he loves her, so it was unthinkable that I would go and not take him, but of course he made it impossible to engage in much adult conversation. And I really like adult conversation. Insert sigh here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why I'm a Commie

Laying all my cards on the table. Now my friends can officially know where I stand.

I have no party affiliation. I think I was briefly a R when I was 18, followed by a mistaken enrollment in the Independent Party (I thought I was registering as an independent). After that I went "Decline to State" and have been DTS ever since. I refuse to commit myself to agendas & platforms devised by other people; I will not march in lockstep.

I vote for both parties, and have been known to throw my vote away on obscure, hopeless candidates because I am disgusted with the offerings before me. Honestly, Bush or Gore? The GOP lost me (not that they ever really had me) back in 2000 when they gave McCain the bum's rush and shoehorned in GWB. CA has an open primary, and I had voted for McCain, but the GOP didn't want unaffiliated voters back then (though they sure want us now). Bush or Kerry? I voted for Kerry, but held my nose when I did it. He ran his campaign like an idiot and framed his arguments poorly. I would have been fine with Hilary getting the nomination. I was never won over by Edwards. I find much to like about Obama, but I have very carefully avoided ever listening to him speak, because I do not want to be swayed by his obviously charismatic personality. I do not want to be blinded by Obamamania.

I do not want "a regular guy" running the country, somebody just like me. I did not ever vote for GWB, I never fell for his folksy pandering schtick. I want somebody smart, somebody who thinks things through, somebody who is capable of changing their mind. If Romney had gotten the GOP nod I might have considered voting R, because I think Romney is a really smart guy. It's OK with me if somebody admits they do not yet have an answer to a question. The term "flip flop" pisses me off like few other things can. Everybody should flip flop! When new information comes in, when situations change, when we have an epiphany, we should not cling to ideology like a lifesaver. Clinging to ideas that don't serve us, principles that are leading us the wrong way... consistency is not always a laudable quality. I vastly prefer flexibility.

On to my positions. I support tighter market regulations. Free (anarchist) markets benefit those who already have plenty of money and do nothing to help the middle and lower classes. Let's take the recent boom (and bust) in housing prices, particularly here in CA. Some people made wads of money off of the bubble, but a lot of those people are now unemployed (they should have gotten a financial advisor and invested conservatively). Home prices drove hundreds of thousands of young families out of the state (like some of you, my friends), breaking up extended families. Despite the fact that Dan earns a very generous amount over our city's median income, we have been frozen out of owning even the most modest house for 5 or so years now. Banks are in danger of failing. Our government is spending billions of dollars it doesn't have on bailouts and economic stimulus plans designed to prop up prices that never should have skyrocketed like that in the first place (and yes, I'm aware that $#@! Dems are responsible for this doomed bailout - I was very pleased when GWB said he'd veto it, but then he folded and signed it). This could have been prevented, or at least blunted, by tighter regulation of the mortgage market. Ack! Liberalism!

Shockingly, I am a fiscal conservative - in that i believe in living within your means, investing wisely and conservatively. You can say what you like about ol' Bill Clinton and his personal moral failings, he had us on track to a balanced budget and a surplus of $559 billion (I find it amusing that Lieberman mentioned this in his speech at the GOP convention and got not much more than mumbles - gads, those R's hate the Clintons!). The last 8 years have been a complete flip on which party is in favor of spending within our means and streamlining government. We are now so deep in debt that it is unlikely we will ever in our lifetimes see the end of it.

I don't mind paying more taxes if those taxes are supporting good causes. Example: Public education, as flawed as it is, is necessary to ensure an educated populace. I am also wholeheartedly in favor of overhauling health care, and I am not afraid of "socialized medicine." I can't even begin to cover this here, but based on my own observations and experiences the system could be a lot better. I also acknowledge that it will be a messy process to fix it up.

Our immigration system is a mess. I do not believe in mass deportation (on both ethical grounds and grounds of practicality), nor do I believe in "amnesty" (which is a word, like "fascist," that gets thrown around too much). I believe in some sort of reward system for illegals to turn themselves in and register for guest worker permits (work visas, if you will). These would not be permanent permits, but renewals would be possible. But this must be combined with tighter border security, which we could achieve easily if we didn't have our military tied up in Iraq (crap, I wasn't sure I even wanted to mention the I-word). This system would encourage compliance, help prevent foreign workers from abuse, and get everybody working legally.

Pollution/climate change. Who likes pollution? This is actually the reason I am an almost vegetarian - commercial-scale animal farming is a huge polluter (methane for the air and feces to pollute groundwater and oceans). I don't like to support pollution, when I have a choice. I do not believe climate change is a fraud. Yes, the earth has cyclical temperature variations and was already on a very slow warming trend, but our massive deforestation (reduction in photosythesis, which consumes CO2) combined with our massive increase in the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere, plus the methane created by our unnaturally large and unnaturally fed food flocks (roughly 96 million cows in the US alone) is speeding up and probably surpassing what would have happened naturally. Arable (farmable) land is mostly maxed out, and we are using more and more dangerous methods (synthetic chemical fertilizers and increasingly nasty pesticides) to extract as much food as possible from those lands. Our food system in the US is a frightening creature, mostly controlled by very aggressive semi-monopolies. Honestly, I see neither candidate talking about this, but those darned liberals are usually much more willing to do something about it, even if it means hindering business (I support assistance programs to help small businesses not be destroyed by regulations). I would rather have industries be hindered than have my drinking water polluted.

Energy - I agree with Paris Hilton on this one. We have to reduce our consumption (that means changing the way we live, sorry), carefully utilize what fossil resources we have, but work very aggressively toward creating as much renewable, clean energy as possible right here in the good ol' USA. I very much lean toward Obama's plan. He's even talking about insulation incentives, which are very un-sexy but would make a huge difference in energy consumption in this country.

What it all comes down to is that I believe in cleanliness and efficiency. I believe in compassion and generosity, administered with a firm hand. All too often social programs are depicted as being softy handouts. We should have "workfare" instead of welfare (as much as that calls to mind the poorhouses of old London), but there have to be systems in place so that the poor don't slip through the cracks and die of shockingly preventable causes. Humans deserve to live productive lives. There should be help for those that need it and want it. Poverty, real poverty, is not as easy to escape as we like to tell ourselves it is. Of course we will never eradicate poverty - there will always be people who are too foolish or weak to succeed. But we should want our fellow human beings, our fellow Americans, to at least be able to have decent food to eat, acceptable places to live, and to be healthy. It should be a fair playing field, because we have the power to make it that way. I'm no Pollyanna, I know perfection isn't possible. But I want to work toward noble, loving principles and goals, not give up on them because humans are flawed. The pursuit of money is not so very vital to me - money is only valuable for the things we need, and things that advance humankind.

I'm not at all certain I've covered all the bases I should have. I've been a middle-straddler for a long time, weighing my positions and my beliefs, but I belive I belong on the left, with a leg still flung over to the conservative side. In some aspects, I am a bit of a socialist. Don't worry, I'm not going to follow the Stalinist or Maoist model. But I think socialism has been set up as much more of a bogeyman than it really is. For example, Norway's mixed economic system (they are not strictly socialist, despite propaganda to the contrary) has served it quite well. It doesn't have to be all or nothing - all unrestricted capitalism or complete communism. Most of us liberals don't advocate pure socialism; I think there have been enough semi-socialist successes for us to learn what might work well here.

OK, OK, i'll shut up now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quite A Week

D's employer, Aristos Logic, was just purchased this week, by Adaptec. This has caused some disruption at work and sucked up a lot of D's at-home time, due to the enormous amount of paperwork involved in signing yourself over to a new employer. Investment plans, health insurance, etc., etc.

One week of college out of the way. If only I could say the same for the homework. I am taking Biology in order to wake up my brain and train it for the actual required classes (Anatomy, Microbiology, Physiology), and now I'm glad I did it this way. I am not at all accustomed to being tested on what I have read. I read the first chapter of my textbook, took the mock quiz at the end, and only got about half the questions right. I apparently have many neural pathways that need to be dusted off. Textbook comprehension is a skill I have allowed to atrophy.

And the class is at 7:30 am, two days a week. Waking up at 6:00 to get ready, catch the bus, and pay attention in class is not problem at all. But that middle-of-the-day "I want a nap" phase is going to be a problem. Yesterday was the lab, and I quickly eliminated one young lady as a future lab partner due to her astonishing level of ignorance (which she was happy to flaunt) and lack of any curiosity or interest in what we were doing. I am not actually very old, and yet I felt so unbelievably older and more experienced than any of the kids surrounding me. They still talk about what cars are better, whether particular Judas Priest albums are for posers or the truly cool, and how "Blake is so like totally such an a-hole." I finally had to put on my iPod. (By the way, if you like electronic bleep-bloop dance music, the Faint's new album has a couple of killer tracks.)

At least I have solved the problem of what to do with Eli. My sister-in-law gave me the # of a woman she goes to church with, and she'd love to watch Eli for an extra $100 a month. Yee-Haw! I'm back in college!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Self-destruct!

I may have just done something very foolish.

I have been very open here about my political liberalness, because you are my friends and I know you love me, even if I am a godless communist (just kidding). But of course being a Mormon liberal is not a particularly easy thing. The church (mostly) tries to stay very neutral, but we all know that the rank and file tend to run Republican. There is a tacit assumption that we all think the same, politically.

I just got an email, from a woman I go to church with and am fond of, that appeared to have been forwarded to most of my ward/congregation. It was basically an anti-Democrat smear piece, claiming that since all the Senate Democrats voted against an amendment (to the Immigration Reform Act of 2006) that offered up some tough (but ultimately watered-down and mostly symbolic) talk about making English the official language of this country, they therefore are traitors to the military, anti-freedom, etc., etc. The facts don't support the email smear, and because I am incapable of keeping my mouth shut when it's good for me, I decided to respond. This is the kamikaze response I sent out:
Dear Everybody Who got this forwarded to them -

I fail to see how a vote on an amendment to the
Immigration Reform Act (amendment 4064) constitutes an
action that "damages morale and undermine[s] the
military." There are over 30,000 foreign-born
soldiers serving in our military right now, many of
whom do not speak English as their first language.

On the very same day of the vote on amendment 4064,
every Democrat in the Senate voted in support of
amendment 4073, from which i quote:

"The government of the United States shall preserve
and enhance the role of English as the common and
unifying language of America."

So yes, even the loathsome Democrats voted in favor of
this.

Don't believe every bit of hooey that gets forwarded
to you by somebody who shares your political beliefs.
If you'd like a little more information on this
particular strain of anti-Democrat chain email, you
can read this entry on Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/englishvote.asp

This is as good a time as any to come out of the
closet and identify myself as pretty darned liberal.
Not a democrat - i believe our party system serves us
very poorly. If I'm the only liberal in the ward, so
be it. I love you, my ward brothers and sisters, and
I love my country and the ideals it was founded on.
Please, please don't try to paint me and the political
candidates I support as traitors to our country. That
is the worst, lowest, and most specious form of
political dialogue. When we begin to treat those who
simply disagree with us as our enemies, we sow the
seeds of division and hatred.

Now we see what happens, eh?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My fantasy house

egads! the LA Times ran these photos of what is almost my dream house. i love, love, love it.

Look here!


what's your dream style?

The Phoenix Has Landed

Remember my cousins who were moving to China? They just got there. Lee is keeping a blog, so if you are curious to follow the adventures of an American family who uproot themselves completely and move to the other side of the world, check it out:

Resolutelee

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back in the Saddle

At Saddleback college. I checked the online schedule today, and amazingly there was an opening in one of the two formerly closed Biology 20 class courses I really wanted. So I'm registered and have a spot in a class! Starting next Tuesday, at 7:30 am, I will be back in college. I am nervous and have small misgivings (I had a dream last night that I left/abandoned Eli with some long-lost cousin and went to France for 6 months), but this feels right and really good.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the boys. Paul starts first grade (!!!!) on September 4, but Eli will still need to be watched. Dan is being very supportive and says that in the worst case he will bend his work schedule a little bit in order to accommodate me. That's love, kids.

And Paul's return to school puts me in a dither vis-a-vis daily lunches. Nuts are not allowed (grrr), and for semi-vegetarians like us that creates a wee problem. No PB&J's or AB&J's?! It's an insult. But between tofu, eggs, seitan, and rice & beans I can give him sufficient protein. I just love the simplicity of a good nut butter sandwich. I'll never go as fussy and pretty as Vegan Lunch Box, but he'll eat well anyway.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Argh. Grrrr. Gahhh.

First, I have Montana pics. Flickr is giving me a hard time because I'm too cheap to pay for an account, so they are kind of random. Look here!

Frustration rules at our house. I have a sewing project that is driving me batty, all of the classes I want at school are full, Eli refuses to give up diapers (I promise you, that is ALL the elimination talk you will get around here), my re-commitment to eating vegetarian 6 days a week is being met with resistance from Paul ("You know I don't like vegetables! Why do you keep cooking them?"), and somehow we keep dirtying up the dishes and wanting clean clothes. Oh, and it's hot! At times I am a very, very cranky Mama.

Since I can't enroll Eli in the daycare at Saddleback anyway (no diapers allowed, how nice to be so choosy!), I am now enrolling VERY last-minute at Fullerton College (yes, Stephen, I'll call you about it) so that Courtney (my SIL) can watch the boys while I desperately petition to be added to whatever class course will have me. I'll have to take the train, but we'll make this work somehow. The Fullerton arrangement may be best after all, as Courtney and I can work out a very agreeable solution (if I can get into any classes).

Friday, August 08, 2008

Nope. No way. Nuh-uh.

I was looking back through my sister (in law) Courtney's blog, and I noticed that she tagged me with this ridiculous "take a picture of your house just as it is" blogger virus.

Courtney, I love you. But not you or anyone else in heaven or hell could compel me to participate in this madness. Housewives, unite against the tyranny of clean houses! Burn your back issues of Martha Stewart Living! Let those Cheerios stay on the floor a few more days! Who cares if the bathroom smells like stale diapers? (OK, even I'm grossed out by that one.)

My house is a mess. Instead of cleaning it, I'm uploading Montana pictures and reading news online. Bah phooey.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Re-Education

First, an apology. I said I would have Montana pictures up, and I don't yet. I can't find the camera, which is a bit of an obstacle. Sorry I haven't come through yet.

I've always felt my formal education comes up short. I love to semi-dishonestly tell people I'm a high school dropout, but the truth is I took the equivalency exam. I went to community college, but due to my less-than-stable life in my late teens and my complete inability to pick a career field, it took me a few years to get my AA, during which time Daniel and I married. I transferred to CSU Fullerton, but dropped out after one week because Daniel and I realized we simply could not afford to live and have both of us in college at the same time. Since he was a math/engineering major and I had settled on the economically useless field of Theatre Arts, plus I had more work experience and could earn the whopping sum of $10 an hour (not too shabby in 1997!), I was the obvious choice to drop out. I've taken a random course here and there, but as of right now I have no marketable skills or career education.

Last week I applied for community college. My enrollment priority stinks - I won't be able to actually enroll in a class until Monday the 11th, and the class I need to start with (Biology 20) only has two open courses. I'm shooting for the nursing program at our local community college. Dan and I are having an early mid-life crisis and our nascent desire to get the bloody hell out of southern CA has reared up again. We need job skills that are marketable anywhere, unlike computer engineering which pays very lucratively but pretty much requires us to stick close to major, overpriced and overcrowded cities. So try not to bite off all of your fingernails while waiting to find out if I get the class I need!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


hee-hee, we are all fine. Mom, in Chino, said it was an E-ticket ride. Their phones have been out, but otherwise not much fuss to report on. The boys' first real shaker!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

With my tail between my legs...

I crawled back to California. Given the Suburban's absolute gutlessness on uphills, at times it literally felt like a crawl. On the way home, the taillight wiring decided to go funny, so every time I turned on the headlights, the fuse would blow. There was no way I could fix it, so I bought reflective stickers for the back of the car in case I got caught driving after dark.

Montana was great, although like all vacations with children it was really just doing most of the same chores I do at home, although with a MUCH better view. We canoed and swam and played fetch with random dogs. I'll have pictures up here in a day or two.

The vegetable garden mostly did well in my absence. I wish somebody had eaten some of the tomatoes; a lot have already gone to waste. I picked at least eight gigantic hornworms off of them while pruning this morning. They boys are so hard up for pets that they have put the hideous things in the terrarium and are feeding them the pruned tomato branches. I have a crop of yellow pear tomatoes in the dehydrator right now, and a basket full of Sun Golds that may mostly have to be chucked out because they are waaaay over-ripe. We had one comically huge patty-pan squash and a few normal-sized ones. Some of the corn is looking awesome, but most of it is dying. It's my fault for taking too long to plant most of it. the pepper plants are a mystery - they have not grown at all and are producing miniature peppers.

I will give a more complete narrative of the several comical events that occurred during our little adventure. I just wanted to toss up a note and let anybody who cares know that we are home.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Snags

Eli decided to celebrate his birthday by vomiting and running a low fever. The canoe turned out to not be so easy to tightly attach to the Suburban - I made it to Mom & Dad's, but averaged 45 mph because the canoe was wiggling and it scared me half to death. This morning Dad was checking the car over and decided that my tire treads are too low and advised me to replace the tires. So since Eli was sick anyway, I'm having a layover day at Mom & Pop's while I pay way too much money for new tires. The silver lining is that yesterday my mother-in-law slipped me some money to help with the trip expenses, and it will almost completely cover the cost of the new tires.

Dad also drilled some holes in my front bumper and installed some eye bolts so we could attach the canoe more securely. We went to a pick-a-part junkyard this morning to see if we could find a roof rack for the 'burb, but no luck. So we're back to strapping it to the front and back of the car and using cut-up foam pool noodles to keep it from scratching the heck out of the paint. When we're all packed up and ready to go, I'll be sure to take a picture, just to treat you to my pure white-trashery.

And Susan, if you wanna go next year, I'll take you. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On the Road Again


There is a 17' aluminum canoe strapped to the top of my rusty Suburban. Inside that Suburban, there are duffel bags, a tent, and all manner of vaguely essential supplies - sewing accessories, quality cookware (the pans at the cabin are mostly pathetic), cookbooks (to replace the disintegrating 1950's era Betty Crocker), kids books, maps, and who knows what all else. Oh yes, a potty chair. My life exudes glamour from every pore.

I feel terrified. This is a long way to drive with just the boys. We have no internet at the cabin, but hopefully I'll be able to post from the library and let anybody who cares know that we made it alive.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Adios, kindergarten!

I am mildly stunned by the end of school. Go ahead and insert your own cliches about how quickly time passes. Considering how mortally afraid I was of sending Paul to school (my public school years were not happy ones), Kinder went miraculously well. Because of the consistency and patience that I am unable to provide to my children, school has helped Paul to progress by astonishing measures. I always knew he was good at math, he understood it intuitively, but school helped him to recognize mathematical notations and writing standards. He struggled for a long time with reading, but then it was like the switch was thrown and now he reads everything he sees.

I am still feeling stunned. I have a child who is transforming from being a little animal that I have to take care of 24/7, into a remarkably human creature who is suddenly able to do and figure out a lot of things on his own. He's astonishing. I just need to keep trying to be the kind of mother who deserves such a wonderful child.

Senor Wright and Senora Hernandez (i still haven't figured out how to add tildes to the n's) did a fantastic job. I do not believe that kindergarten could be any more idyllic than Paul's experience was. And he's getting less and less shy about using Spanish with me. I need to start really boning up on my vocabulary (and practicing my past tenses), so I can keep up with him and not teach him bad grammar this summer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Montana, here I come

I have less than two weeks before I leave for Montana. My departure date is not set in stone; my only requirement is that I have to be in Missoula on July 4th so I can pick Dan up at the airport.

Two weeks! I'll have to take my sewing machine with me. My house is not in order. My vegetable garden is not where I want it to be. I'll have to hire some kid to come water it and feed the cats while Dan is not home. And yo add insult to it all, the Times just ran this article on no-dig, minimal-water vegetable gardening! I want to try it incredibly badly, but I have to ask "Why couldn't they have runt his article two months ago?" I have been laboriously digging up hardpan, completely neglected dirt, and all along I could have been doing this no-dig stuff instead? All I can do is sigh. the time and labor I've wasted... now I just need to find out where I can buy straw.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

sewing, sewing, sewing

When a friend calls and says "You haven't updated your blog," I guess that's a sign.

Allyne is gone, she flew back to AZ on Tuesday. We had a delightful time in Little Tokyo. Stephen joined us for the day and Daniel took the train to meet us for dinner. We got some cool sushi erasers (they'll be in Paul's Christmas stocking, shh!), checked out the sort-of rooftop garden at the New Otani Hotel, and Allyne also bought a manga and a couple of Japanese CD's at Kinokuniya. We walked over to Union Station to retrieve Dan, then got on the waiting list for Daikokuya, which is an extremely popular ramen joint. Bear in mind that actual Japanese ramen bears no resemblance to Top Ramen. There are noodles and broth, but that pretty much ends the similarities. The Daikokuya ramen was outstanding, but the place was possibly as hot as Hell and we gulped down much cold water - I rubbed an ice cube all over my neck, which everybody laughed at but worked like a charm to cool me down.

Magic Mountain was a test of my patience and love. Dan and Allyne claimed to have had a good time, and I must take my satisfaction from that. Sunday I had even more cousins in town, so we hung out at my parents' house for a few hours with lots of relatives and got to attend my old church ward. Lots of history with those people - not always good history, but it's my past and I own it now.

And the title of today's entry? I am sewing a mockup of our new family backpacking tent. It's basically a copy of this tent. The 8-panel monstrosity I sewed five years ago is still functional (you can see it in this picture), but it's a crude design and crudely executed, and I'd like some more space than it provides. The new tent requires 17 yards of fabric, so luckily I have been hoarding $1 a yard nylon ripstop from WalMart, which keeps the expense of the mockup at a minimum (thank you Christine for scoring a 12+ yard piece for me!). It's tempting to just use the mockup for a while, as siliconized ripstop is upwards of $5 a yard these days. We'll see how well it turns out. The three seams are VERY long, and they are flat-felled, which means I am sewing each one twice. Looooooong seams are tedium personified.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Allyne is here

So my first-cousin-once-removed Allyne is here. So far it has been sedate - yesterday we took her to famous Crystal Cove to see the beach cottages. We saw dolphins playing in the surf and got shakes at the Shake Shack. She shares my love of Japan, so today we are going into LA to see Little Tokyo, and she will almost certainly buy some manga and little Japanese goodies. Saturday Dan and I are taking her to Magic Mountain, as she and Dan share a love of hideous roller coasters. I may survive, but if you never hear from me again, I have died a horrible death from vomiting.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

old loves

I have been married for over thirteen years now. I am thirty-three and much of the angst and emotional freewheeling of my young adulthood is settled and controlled (I'm still a basket case, just a slightly better-controlled basket case). And yet nothing has the ability to bring back the memories of that time like reminders of old boyfriends - or guys I wanted to be my boyfriends but were 100% not interested in me. In the past few months, I have seen one ex-boyfriend in person, and a photograph of possibly the most painful unrequited crush I ever had.

To see the ex after thirteen years was shocking. Gads, he was handsome - a clever, winking, potential heart-breaker. It was a first-sight type thing for both of us and we dated for over a year. I sabotaged it, as I was prone to doing at that time in my life. We both said and didn't say important things, broke up and got back together, broke up and got together, and then I re-met Daniel and I had to nail the coffin shut. Even though I did everything as honorably as I could, I always felt lingering guilt. Daniel and I got engaged very quickly (we only dated for two weeks) and I always felt like that looked bad. See, old emotions come back so quickly. I ended up dropping in at a church activity for the ward he's in now and saw him there. I don't know that he saw me; I made no effort to talk to him.

And then there was the crush. Oh, the crush. I finally understood why it was called a crush, as I was crushed by it. There were several instances in my dating years when I was really pathetic (oh, Trisha, remember Mr. Limpett?), but this was only mildly pathetic, as Mr. SuperCrush was very kind to me. My friends and I had a code name for him - Sam Brown - as we saw him all the time at the Institute of Religion at Mt. SAC and couldn't very well discuss him by his real name. It was one of those impossible matches that you see in the movies, but this was real life. Oh, Sam. He was about as Mormon as Mormon could get - wanted ten kids, avoided caffeinated drinks, thought PG movies were too racy, no style. I was an 18-year-old purple-haired anarchist Mormon, prone to internal spiritual philosophizing, full of justifications and limit-pushing (BYU's rejection of me was probably one of their better choices - for starters, my essay was hideous). But gads, I wanted him to like me. He was so darned nice, and so darned happy, and just radiated goodness. I was a moth to his flame. I made a few very tentative attempts to go on group dates with him, but whether by fate or by his tactful awareness they never quite happened. He's married now, with seven or so kids. I'm sure he's an awesome Dad.

Now for the gooey part. I'm glad for all of these experiences, because they led me to Dan. Only a man of his monumental patience could put up with me. And we have two rockin' kids and are still open to adding more through foster care (if we can ever get into a 4-bedroom house without bankrupting ourselves). And he's secretly as crazy as me and lets me talk him into loony schemes like flying to Phoenix to buy a rusty old Suburban to run on vegetable oil, and someday escaping to the country to build a house out of straw bales, and our plan to raft the entire length of the Grand Canyon as a family, and to let the kids learn Spanish and Mandarin when they're young and not go the traditional compulsory education route... and i think that's enough sap. My point is that it's awesome to look back at past phases and not feel any regrets, to feel that everything shook out for the best. To be very content with how everything has gone so far.